8 votes

About political messages on the Rust blog

14 comments

  1. [2]
    EgoEimi
    Link
    Everything is political, but not every moment or context is appropriate or useful for all politics. Eating a chocolate bar implicates globalization, sustainability, and labor conditions for cacao...

    The main counter-argument is that technology is inherently political because tools such as machine learning can be used by governments or corporations in ways that are politically charged.

    Everything is political, but not every moment or context is appropriate or useful for all politics.

    Eating a chocolate bar implicates globalization, sustainability, and labor conditions for cacao farmers in tropical African countries. Tony's Chocolonely did a good job highlighting issues of slavery in cacao farming because it encouraged chocolate eaters to directly confront the ethics of their consumption. But it wouldn't be appropriate or useful for a chocolate company to talk about nuclear non-proliferation.

    I think it's appropriate and useful to talk about ethics in technology in a tech blog because then readers will think more about how their work's impact on individuals and society and their own moral obligations as creators of technology.

    In contrast, I find it irrelevant and unhelpful to just throw out a message for the political cause du jour. It's akin to finishing a meal at a restaurant and the waitstaff saying to you, "thanks for dining with us tonight, and remember that a million Uyghurs are detained in China." Or to give an actual similar example: in 2015, Starbucks asked all of its baristas to talk about racism with customers.

    I think that's what functionality distinguishes virtue signaling from doing good: it doesn't change really things for the better (or maybe extremely marginally), but it shows that one is on the good and right side and builds a lot of social capital to be capitalized upon.

    10 votes
    1. imperialismus
      Link Parent
      I largely agree with this take. There's a time and place for everything, and if you invade and disrupt a space that isn't conducive to it, it can end up harming the message. You can make people...

      I largely agree with this take. There's a time and place for everything, and if you invade and disrupt a space that isn't conducive to it, it can end up harming the message. You can make people hostile to a message they actually agree with, because you presented it in a disruptive way, in an inappropriate space.

      I'm reminded of the ongoing climate activism campaign. I was watching a tennis match on tv, and suddenly some woman runs onto the field and chains herself to the net. She was apparently wearing some kind of climate change message on her shirt, but the cameras pointedly refused to broadcast it. She would have been removed immediately, except she appeared to be carrying a knife or something and it wasn't clear if she was a threat to herself or others. At that moment, I'm sure a lot of spectators, even those who agreed with the message, would have been happy to see the players whack a few balls at her at 150 mph. This movement has also glued themselves to famous works of art -- just the other day someone was arrested for trying to glue themselves to Scream by Munch, and I think they also did the Mona Lisa (both paintings were protected by glass) -- and staged human barricades of busy roads at rush hour.

      Their point is that human made climate change is really disruptive and more important than getting to your office job on time, or sports, or famous paintings. Their method of protest, however, only caused a minor, niggling irritation to a lot of innocent bystanders without actually doing anything for the environment. Yesterday I was watching the news and there's been a huge flood in parts of Norway. Lots of people's houses ruined. It's, like, the second "200 year flood" in less than a decade. I didn't see any climate activists out there helping people deal with the real world consequences of climate change. It's more fun to get arrested for civil disobedience and petty vandalism (carefully staged so as not to cause any lasting damage), apparently, than it is to deal with the actual issue at hand.

      I'm not saying that political messaging is itself useless. Helping someone save their basement from a flood is a good and useful practical thing to do but the core issue of reducing emissions must be solved by action on a political scale, and the same could be said for police brutality in America, the internment of Uighurs in China, the mistreatment of women in Iran, or any other large scale problem in the world. Spreading awareness is part of that. Whatever you think of someone like Greta Thunberg, she's probably done more for her cause than if all she did was go around pumping water out of flooded basements. However, when the medium of the message is basically "let's piss off ordinary people by being minorly disruptive in non-political spaces", that's just counterproductive. It biases a person like myself, who is inclined to agree with the message, because humans are irrational beings. It's impossible to perfectly separate the message from the messenger. If you present yourself as an annoying vandal bent on causing trouble to innocent bystanders, it's hard to look at your argument objectively.

      To circle back to the Rust blog, I remember that message about BLM and how they weren't going to be posting full release notes because it would detract from the message. I wasn't majorly offended by it, and would be more pissed off if I was going somewhere to do something that's important to me and found some assholes had blocked the road to promote action on climate change. However, it did annoy me to see this intrusion of an issue that (while I agree institutional racism is bad) was not relevant to me as a non-American, obscuring the message I was actually looking for, which was of a technical nature. It struck me as what people around here call "unmusical": like a corporate board giving the CEO a raise while laying off ordinary workers. A failure to read the room. Not necessarily inherently wrong (maybe that CEO actually turned a failing company around and saved another 1000 jobs by laying off 100 workers), but it looks wrong to a lot of people, and biases them in a counterproductive way.

      I can also sympathize with the argument that a global open source project, if it is to present political opinions at all, should have some sort of democratic process for determining which positions to adopt and how to present them. It probably doesn't feel good to contribute your free time to working on a technical project, only to have that project's official voice broadcast politics you don't agree with. (And that's a general principle, regardless of my personal feelings on the particular causes chosen by Rust.) A lot of open source projects are run as benevolent dictatorships, or oligarchies. Hell, BDFL (benevolent dictator for life) was the semi-official title of Python founder Guido van Rossum until he voluntarily stepped down. If you start a project, you get to choose its path, and anyone else who disagrees is free to fork the project.

      Except, of course, in practice, once a project gains momentum, forks rarely attract a sufficient critical mass of a following. Nobody wants to depend on a piece of software that isn't updated because all the contributors are working on the original, not the fork. So I can see how it would breed resentment that contributors feel a technical project they believe in is being used in this way to promote political views, and not really having a choice about it, even if nominally you can just fork the repo and make your own Rust.

      That strikes me as a short-sighted way of managing a project, but what do I know, I haven't managed any open source projects.

      3 votes
  2. csos95
    Link
    I saw this posted on r/rust a few days ago and I really disagreed with the arguments presented in the article. It ended up getting locked with a reply from the top mod about the situation with a...

    I saw this posted on r/rust a few days ago and I really disagreed with the arguments presented in the article.
    It ended up getting locked with a reply from the top mod about the situation with a few "official positions of /r/rust".

    One of the main points was that it's too US-centric, but all three situations were/are being talked about around the world and were condemned by the United Nations and two of the three are events happening in other countries.
    Of the three examples given for topics not covered, two of them were about a single person, not a large group of people in an ongoing situation with a specific focal point that can be pointed out in a short blurb.
    The third one certainly involves a large group of people in an ongoing situation.
    I don't know if that event was one that they had considered putting on a blog or not, but there's a lot of divisiveness surrounding Israel/Palestine in general and wading into that with a couple of sentences on a blog post probably would've led to way more backlash than any of the other topics chosen for the blogs previously.

    3 votes
  3. Octofox
    Link
    Personally I don't care all that much about the messages at the bottom as you can just ignore them. I was very much bothered by the time they admitted to not putting out the full release notes so...

    Personally I don't care all that much about the messages at the bottom as you can just ignore them. I was very much bothered by the time they admitted to not putting out the full release notes so the authors could use the attention to redirect to their political messaging, since that's actually decreasing the quality of the release notes to use on irrelevant politics.

    2 votes
  4. [6]
    Immortal
    Link
    What do you think of this quote? Am I wrong to think that they make a good point here? I feel like there is some truth to it, but it also ignores how it is not a simple task to cover every single...

    Yes, the issues the blog mentioned were real human rights issues, but selective coverage of human rights is propaganda.

    What do you think of this quote? Am I wrong to think that they make a good point here? I feel like there is some truth to it, but it also ignores how it is not a simple task to cover every single thing that's going on in the world. By then one would just turn into a news/politics focused blog. For example:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ongoing_armed_conflicts
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_proxy_wars#Ongoing_proxy_wars
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_protests_in_the_21st_century
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_environmental_issues

    2 votes
    1. [3]
      DanBC
      Link Parent
      I've posted the occasional humanitarian article to Tildes. I get them from what used to be IRIN PlusNews, or the New Humanitarian. I feel like these things are important, and that they're so...

      I've posted the occasional humanitarian article to Tildes. I get them from what used to be IRIN PlusNews, or the New Humanitarian.

      I feel like these things are important, and that they're so important that we should avoid simplistic but feel good signals of broad support. I feel that short messaging about important topics can be done well. The @AuschwitzMuseum account on Twitter is an example of excellent short form messaging.

      I feel that some things are so important (BLM, equal pay for women) that it's better to just crack on and do things to fix the problems than to post feel good sound bites while continuing to enact policies that entrench inequality. On International Women's Day a bunch of organisations posted to social media various inspirational and supportive comments. In the UK a gender pay gap bot retweeted thousands of these posts, with plain and simple information about how big the pay gap in that organisation is. Here's one example: https://twitter.com/PayGapApp/status/1588428860294561793?s=20&t=qR__EpbzMpZdcqYe3oZtBw We can talk about the complexities of the data and the complexities of the reasons behind the data, but when you see some organisations paying women more than men, and some organisations paying people about the same, and then you see a bunch of organisations paying women very much less than men it helps cut through some of the disingenuous arguments about it.

      However, when people say "this is propaganda" I get the impression from many of them that what they mean is "I am cosy and comfortable, and you are presenting me with things that take away that cosy comfortable feeling, and I don't want that. I don't want to examine how I might not be where I am purely through merit, that I might be here because of things that are outside my control. And so when you bring those up I want to close down those conversations".

      The author says:

      Yes, the issues the blog mentioned were real human rights issues, but selective coverage of human rights is propaganda. It serves a specific, US-centric agenda.

      I don't feel the three examples he mentions - the killing of Mahsa Amini, invasion of Ukraine by Russia, and Police Brutality in the US and worldwide - support his point that these are US-centric "SJWs" imposing their ideology. I'm not saying his core point is bad. There is a problem with people imposing a specific US angle to words that are used outside the US (and have been since before the US was a thing). I mentioned some work by a GRT (Gypsy, Roma, Traveller) organisation, and an American was outraged by my use of the word Gypsy, even though that word was in the name of the organisation, and was strongly preferred by their members and by other GRT lead UK organisations. There was a point-blank refusal to accept that cultural norms that exist in the US may well be different to those in other regions. It was especially infuriating that this person had no connection to GRT heritage, but was happy to speak over other people who are members of those communities.

      9 votes
      1. [2]
        Akir
        Link Parent
        One of the benefits of being on vacation is that you get to reset the way you see things. I've been thinking about what kind of statements I have been hearing from people on the right and I'm...

        However, when people say "this is propaganda" I get the impression from many of them that what they mean is "I am cozy and comfortable, and you are presenting me with things that take away that cozy comfortable feeling, and I don't want that. I don't want to examine how I might not be where I am purely through merit, that I might be here because of things that are outside my control. And so when you bring those up I want to close down those conversations".

        One of the benefits of being on vacation is that you get to reset the way you see things. I've been thinking about what kind of statements I have been hearing from people on the right and I'm somewhat convinced that this exact attitude is at the very core of whatever is currently passing for conservativeism right now. Just take a look at anything of their political positions and it makes perfect sense. They can't acknowledge things like systemic racism or the gender pay gap because it would ruin the idea that they are living in a perfect and fair world. They can't stand taxes because why on earth would they spend more money when they have everything they need right now? And when it comes to the number of conservatives out there who say they do support the wellbeing of LGBT people, I really believe it; I also believe that they just prefer to ignore the fact that they're on the side who are constantly trying to make life hell for us because that would make them the bad guys. If you've ever read Eduardo Bonilla-Silva's "Racism Without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America", it's like a blueprint into the collective conservative mindset.

        And on a further tangent, that makes the right-wing dismissal of Critical Race Theory so much more ironic because actual CRT is probably one of the best tools we have to give people an idea of what people of color actually go through. They are the people who most desperately need to hear those stories so they can begin to understand that there are people who aren't living the same comfortable life they are, and it's not a result of them being lazy, stupid, or entitled as they are frequently imagined to be.

        To think this, at first, makes me angry. There are so many people out there trying to tell their story to get people to understand their miseries so we can get together and fix them, and here they stand with their fingers in their ears trying everything they can do in order to avoid learning about it. It's a position that they can only have because they are privileged. But now it makes me much more sad than angry. To deny things that are right in front of their face must mean that they are fundamentally broken people.

        I'm a gay man. At one point, I was in the closet, and that made me miserable. It was terrible to have to pretend to be someone I was not every day, but I thought it was worth it because at least I was safe. I could live a life that wouldn't be as vibrant, but at least was comfortable. But I knew that the comfort the closet offered was a lie; it was suffocating, it was hard work, and it was fragile. What got me out was the idea that the me I would become might not be as comfortable, but I would be living a life with so much more vividness; there was a level of happiness that I simply couldn't ever think to even achieve if I were to stay in the closet.

        There are so many people who say to talk to people on the alt-right nicely; to not insult them because you need to be nice for them to listen to you and eventually facts and logic will get them to change their mind. But now I think the real solution is to be as real as possible to them. Have your stories ready for them. Tell them what life is like when you're not as privileged as they are. Have those shocking statistics on hand to let them know that it's not just you, it's everyone who's being affected. They are living their lives constantly tuned into media that conforms to their warped views, so take the time to tell them what real life so that one day there is a breach in their comfortable fantasy land and they'll have no choice but to confront reality.

        7 votes
    2. mtset
      Link Parent
      I'm generally not one to say we should keep politics out of tech, and vehemently disagree with that part of their argument, but this is right. The Rust team are not good at picking what shows up...

      I'm generally not one to say we should keep politics out of tech, and vehemently disagree with that part of their argument, but this is right. The Rust team are not good at picking what shows up there. On the other hand, who cares? SQLite contains Christian propaganda and we all just ignore it.

      5 votes
    3. Octofox
      Link Parent
      Personally I think it's completely fine, desirable even, if the Rust release notes contain nothing but the notes of the release. I don't get my world news from the Rust blog and everything they...

      Personally I think it's completely fine, desirable even, if the Rust release notes contain nothing but the notes of the release. I don't get my world news from the Rust blog and everything they cover is stuff people have already seen on the mainstream news.

      2 votes
  5. [4]
    Macil
    (edited )
    Link
    It felt more relevant and actionable when various tech sites including the Rust blog were championing black lives matter, because it was a wide topic that contained relevant workplace issues too....

    It felt more relevant and actionable when various tech sites including the Rust blog were championing black lives matter, because it was a wide topic that contained relevant workplace issues too. The other political messages like those named in the article feel much more arbitrary and out of place in the Rust blog, even though I do agree with the content of the messages.

    2 votes
    1. [3]
      vegai
      Link Parent
      I'm guessing this is related to where you live at least. For many Europeans, BLM is a non-issue (because our law enforcement systems don't tend to be massively biased against black people) whereas...

      I'm guessing this is related to where you live at least. For many Europeans, BLM is a non-issue (because our law enforcement systems don't tend to be massively biased against black people) whereas the destructive war in Ukraine is easily the most important one.

      2 votes
      1. [2]
        Octofox
        Link Parent
        Any kind of political messaging is going to have a local bias or relevancy. Which is why it just doesn’t fit on a global announcement for a Rust release. The authors would be better off posting...

        Any kind of political messaging is going to have a local bias or relevancy. Which is why it just doesn’t fit on a global announcement for a Rust release.

        The authors would be better off posting these messages on their own personal social media’s and blogs.

        2 votes
        1. vegai
          Link Parent
          I suppose. Rust community, it seems to me, has always been a bit preachy as a whole.

          I suppose. Rust community, it seems to me, has always been a bit preachy as a whole.

          2 votes